Friday, September 2, 2011

Proud Dad

Having been a passenger on my bike for 15 months, MMVII has finally started pedalling!

If anything, I reckon this bike is a bit small for her, but it only cost a few quid on eBay and it is at least from a proper bike manufacturer (Specialized). It even has a back-pedal brake! My plan is to get her confident on this.. hopefully remove the stabilisers before too long.. by dangling a brand new bike from the shop as a bribe.

We won't be cycling to Waterloo any time soon but that doesn't matter because before long she'll be going to the local primary school .. and she could cycle there! It even has a bike shed.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bicycle Ambulance

It was interesting and pleasing yesterday morning to see a bicycle ambulance belting along with blue lights flashing.

Less pleasing, on the way home, to see another one - clearly NOT on emergency business - busting through a red traffic light..

Friday, July 8, 2011


The Quadrabyke converts from 4-wheeled pedal toy, to trike, to bicycle

Genius! Just what we need.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Nothing for the practical cyclist

I got this strange catalogue from Evans.

There was a whole section at the back about the Ride2Work scheme - a benefit-in-kind tax wheeze where the government subsidises commuting bikes. However not one bike in the entire catalogue was an ordinary comfortable road bike of the sort I would consider commuting on. Every single one of them would give me a crick in the neck; most had no mudguards, no lights, and no way to carry anything. These bikes are.. incomplete.

There was a piece about riding in hot weather. All tight fitting clothes made from 'performance' fabrics; not a single linen shirt! :-)

I understand that this sort of thing works for many of Evans' customers, but they're preaching to the converted. Buy a mountain bike or a racer for commuting if you're already into that sort of riding. But if we're going to get more ordinary people using a bike just to trundle around or go to work - which I think would be fantastic - we need to not put them off with this focus on high-performance machines and special clothing.

The last thing the non-cyclist needs is a bike with a razor-edge seat, skinny tyres and no bloody mudguards.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Health and Fitness Update

When I started this lark, one of my main aims was to improve my health and fitness. I've been properly overweight for nigh on twenty years now. So is it working?

Well I wouldn't say I'm back to the 1980s. I haven't even really lost weight - although that is slowly starting to happen. But I am definitely much fitter. I did nearly 15 miles yesterday with no ill effects. And even since last autumn I'm noticeably faster on the road: I'm using 2nd or 3rd gear on the steepest uphill bits of my commute, where originally I would walk or use 1st gear. And I quite regularly hit top (8th) gear, which used to be a rare event. So although far from the fastest, I am definitely not the slowest person on the roads any more.

At the beginning I was a bit worried about the effect of cycling on my creaky knees, and they did ache at first. I even consulted my GP. But the Doc was right: now my legs are much stronger it's really not an issue. I do still have to restrain myself from using the full force of my leg muscles, for fear of hurting my knees.. but 'mind your knees' speed is now considerably faster than it used to be.

So there seems to be no downside. If you're dithering, just do it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Delivery Boy

Today I are mostly been impersonating G-G-G-Granville from Open All Hours..

Thursday, June 9, 2011


On Tuesday I went to the launch of a new book "Cyclebabble", which is a digest of the best bits from the Guardian bike blog. The launch event was at Look Mum No Hands, a bike shop cum cafe-bar on Old St EC1.

Look Mum is a bit painfully trendy for my taste, but it was nice to meet a couple of the people behind the book, including Sara from the Guardian's tiny publishing department, and the very enthusiastic Peter Walker. I also chatted with a nice lass who turned out to be the girl behind the wonderful 101 Wankers project. Dawn was lovely and her blog is a laugh, as well as highlighting a serious and mystifying issue: why does riding a bicycle somehow make a girl fair game for witless comments and sexual harassment? Are the low-forehead fraternity somehow threatened by her.. I dunno.. freedom of movement? If so, god forbid they ever spot a girl in a sports car.

I was invited because I occasionally comment on the Guardian blog, but I don't know if any of my comments made it into print as I didn't have time to flick through all of it. They were selling copies for £6 instead of the cover price of £7.99 but I didn't buy one for two reasons:

- Everything in it is already available on the Guardian site

- Even if I did want a hard copy (perhaps for the loo) I thought it would probably be cheaper on Amazon (and it is!)

Anyway, it was interesting to attend and I enjoyed a couple of refreshing Slags. Thanks guys, and good luck with the book.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Most of them are fine, though

I am reporting DANGEROUS DRIVING and rude behaviour in relation to cyclists.

I don't know whether my witness is admissible as she is my wife: [MCMLXX's contact details]

At about 6.40pm on Wed 4th May 2011 I was cycling east along The Cut SE1. MCMLXX was a little behind me on her bike. As we approached the junction with Blackfriars Road, I moved into the right hand of the two lanes because I intended to go straight across onto Union St (the left lane is a filter left). The lights were green and several vehicles were already crossing the junction; there were no vehicles behind me at first but I took up a 'commanding position' in the correct lane to make it clear to anyone who did come up behind me that I was not turning left.

MCMLXX had not done so; she was just across the lane divider slightly in the left hand lane when a black cab swept past her.

As I crossed the junction, I was surprised to see this black cab RIGHT BEHIND ME. My wife said he was two inches from my back tyre. He was way too close; dangerously and aggressively close.

As we got onto Union St and the taxi started to overtake me, I raised my right hand (all fingers spread - NOT a rude gesture) as if to ask "what on earth did you think you were doing...?". The taxi roared past, again uncomfortably close.

It isn't even as if he needed to be so close to catch the lights; MCMLXX was able to cross behind him.

And unsurprisingly his aggressive overtaking was a waste of time, as he was soon stopped at the next set of lights. I was able to pull up alongside and lean down to speak to the driver. He opened his window and it was perhaps only at this point that he realised I had my 3-year-old daughter on the bicycle as well.

I told the driver "Don't harass cyclists on a junction - that was bloody dangerous!". I didn't catch exactly what he said first, but then he said something about "get a bloody car". I was just replying that I do have a car as well (at various times I am a motorist, pedestrian, cyclist, tube and bus user.. and a taxi passenger) when the lights changed and he roared off again. I saw him pull into an entrance on Great Suffolk Street.

As well as being rude and aggressive, this driver clearly believes that cyclists - even riding correctly and following the Highway Code and cycling best practice - do not deserve the same consideration as motorised traffic. That makes him a danger to other road users.

I've also given them the sod's number plate and description. Let's hope something comes of it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Wow. Found this old photo of yours truly aged about 12 - with my first bike!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Heart Of Glass

I knew it was the BAFTAs last weekend. Not because I read it anywhere, but because they'd blocked off Bow Street to build a massive lighting rig for the red carpet.

I love seeing what's going on at street level as I amble through the centre of the universe every morning. On the bridges and near railway stations, increasing numbers of Boris Bikes are ridden by fellas wearing suits and wool coats. In Covent Garden it's the morning after the night before: Brakes are delivering boil-in-a-bag food, and Coe Vintners are replenishing the booze supplies. Someone from Addison Lee is driving his MPV shockingly badly past some rather dazed-looking people in Soho who maybe, just maybe, are still partying.

And then there's the building works. The roadworks in Dean Street - gone today, hurrah! - were there because there's a cave underneath the road full of BT equipment.. which had collapsed. The top end of Tottenham Court Road is completely closed off at the moment as they build the new Crossrail station.

But this is the Daddy, going up near London Bridge:

The Shard of Glass, from Southwark St in Borough

Get up close and the sheer bulk of it is overwhelming; a monster! I can see it from home in Bermondsey, and I wouldn't be surprised if, once it's finished, I can see if from Baker Street as well. Recently in The Sun the crane driver who works at the top recounted how, one day, he was above the clouds, and the only other thing he could see was the top of the tower at Canary Wharf. Geometric leviathans flashing their red eyes at each other over our heads.

Love it or loathe it - and I'm in the former camp, I think - the Shard will be talked about for years, and it's a privilege to watch a landmark slowly emerging from the grubby streets behind the train station. I can't wait to go up inside it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Not very bright



I think your lights are a genius idea. I commute 15km a day across central London, so I have bought an SL520 front and SL620 rear for my commuting bike. It's great to have no more dead batteries - or detachable lights dropped in the Thames!

The first thing I noticed about the lights was the very brief flash. Of course they need to be very frugal with power, especially when running on the capacitor, so I understand that - and the eye does retain the image even after the LED has actually stopped.

I also noticed that the front loses its capacitor reserve quicker. I assume that is by design because the back light is more important at a junction.

But even when the capacitor is fully charged and I am going quite fast, the light does not either stay on longer or get brighter. The front, at least, just flashes quicker - too quickly, I think (isn't there a legal limit of 4Hz?). I can't see the back light when I'm moving but I assume it does the same.

I've set them up carefully and there seems to be plenty of power available - the capacitors start to charge just from me pushing the bike to the gate! - so it seems a shame that they don't use it more intelligently by doing brighter, longer flashes (rather than more frequent flashes) once the capacitor is fully charged, perhaps reverting to the short flashes at 1Hz when running from the capacitor.

So I think they're wonderful but not as bright as they could be - and I wonder if I'm missing something?




Thank you for your interesting feedback. We value feedback from users of our products vey much. First of all I'm sorry for the late reply we have been away travelling.

A little feedback on your comments and questions:

- you are right about the limited current resulting in brief flashes. We are currently working on developing our generator concept to enable us to provide a higher output. This should result in flashing products with longer and brighter flashes and steady light with an actual light cone on the road.

- the difference in capacitor reserve is actually mainly due to variations in physical setup. The lights are programmed with the same software.

- the back-up light automatically stops after 2 minutes. This is to avoid the light flashing for ½ an hour after you have parked. Also this serves further reserve when you stop soon after and haven't had time to fully recharge the capacitor.

- When the reserve starts reaching the capacitor limit the light increases the flashing frequency and the flash length - and can actually increase up to constant if ridding fast enough.

I agree and have noted your input about doing brighter and longer flashes rather than more frequent flashes. This requires more advanced software programming than in the current lights. I expect that we will implement a better solution like this in future lights along with improved generators. And by the way I can tell from you comments that you have been very careful with the setup of our lights - resulting in plenty of power. Not everybody is as careful as you.

Again thank you for the feedback - happy safe ridding!

Best regards / Med venlig hilsen

Steffen Buck-Hansen
Research & Development manager

Reelight ApS.
Hasselager Centervej 11, 1.
DK-8260 Viby J. Denmark
T: +45 86 74 24 90 / D: +45 89 38 61 06

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ridgeback Trials

The blog has had a bit of a holiday, and that's partly because I did too. In December the cold and snow came in with a vengeance and while I would mostly have been happy to keep plugging away, the cold was just too much for little MMVII to cope with, no matter how much we wrapped her up. So public transport it was, for a couple of weeks.

With that, and then a couple of weeks off over Xmas and New Year, it was actually a whole month before I got back on the bike again. So my legs knew about it!

There have also been a couple of developments with the Ridgeback recently. Firstly, after several weeks of failing to get quite comfy, I have fitted some new swept-back handlebars. My neighbour Z - who imports bikes and components, and sold me the bike in the first place - sourced these amazing bars for me from the continent. As well as just being more comfortable bars, they include a front carrier onto which you can strap things. I have plans to fit a box or tray for carrying shopping - and which, come the summer, will be just the right size for our picnic basket. Proper Dutch looking, too, although the extra weight on the handlebars does feel a bit odd. Most importantly, of course, they've completely revolutionised the seating position and I am now super comfy!

Especially now I've fitted the gel saddle that Dad gave me last year - much better than the Ridgeback one.

Secondly, sick and tired of buying batteries and dropping lights in the river, I've taken the plunge and retrofitted dynamo lights! Not a hub dynamo but lights that work by induction: you attach magnets to the wheel and a coil to the frame, and that generates electricity as you ride. A genius idea, and mine (the Reelight SL520 front and SL620 rear) also have a power reserve capacitor so that, after a couple of minutes riding, they will even stay on while you're sat at a junction. I no longer need batteries or to take the lights off when I park, which is a huge relief.

So as of last week I'm back in the saddle 5 days a week (except today when it was hooning it down), with only one minor gripe. The strap from my pannier was hanging down and got stuck in the back sprocket, making an oily mess of the strap, my hands and my work shirt. My fault, I guess, for not being more careful with the strap... and yet I can't help thinking, somewhere in the back of my mind, that if the frame was the right one for the hub gears, the bike could have had a fully enclosed chain... and this would never have happened. Hmm.